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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor’s note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn’t tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor’s note:  Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.



Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
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Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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Ravens holding Terrell Suggs out of OTAs

AP

The Baltimore Ravens fully understand its May and they don’t need to see anything from Terrell Suggs on the field at this stage of the offseason.

According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, the Ravens are holding the 34-year old linebacker out of the early stages of OTAs.

He probably could practice but I’m holding him out,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s in here training every single day and doing a great job on the conditioning part of it.”

Suggs sustained a torn biceps last October. Despite the injury, he missed just one game before returning the field and playing the rest of the season for the Ravens. He finished the year with 35 tackles and a team-high eight sacks.

The Ravens will need Suggs ready to go in September. They don’t need to see him on the field in May.

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Falcons visited league office to determine limits of OTA contact

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Last year, excessive contact during offseason workouts resulted in the Falcons losing a week of Organized Team Activities. This year, the Falcons left nothing to chance.

G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, appearing on a special 70-minute special edition of PFT Live, explained that he and coach Dan Quinn traveled to the league office to obtain specific guidance regarding the things that can and can’t be done during non-contact practices. The Falcons engaged in a comprehensive review of their offseason workouts with the NFL in order to determine the limits of the process.

For full details, check out the video. For the full, 70-minute interview with Dimitroff download and subscribe to PFT Live in Apple podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else podcasts are sold. For free.

Money back guarantee.

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Report: Draft bust Justin Gilbert suspended four games

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One of the biggest draft busts in recent NFL history has seen his career dealt another blow.

Former Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, has been suspended four games, according to Courtney Fallon of NFL Network. There has been no word on the reason for the suspension.

Of course, a suspension only matters if the player has a team to play for, and Gilbert doesn’t. The Browns got rid of Gilbert after only two seasons, and the Steelers cut him this offseason. He’s been unemployed since.

It remains to be seen whether any team will want to pick Gilbert up now, or in the future. It’s possible that this player with Top 10 talent could be done at age 25.

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Malik McDowell signs with Seahawks

AP

The Seahawks have agreed to a contract with their top pick from this year’s draft.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team has signed defensive lineman Malik McDowell to a four-year deal. The Seahawks traded down three times before eventually selecting McDowell with the 35th overall pick.

McDowell had 24.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks at Michigan State and disrupted offenses on plenty of occasions during his time in East Lansing. There were also periods where McDowell was a non-factor, leading to critiques of his work ethic during the pre-draft process.

The best of McDowell would make him a good fit in the rotation up front for the Seahawks, who also added Nazair Jones to the mix in the third round.

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Jets sign Corey White

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The Jets continued retooling their secondary on Thursday.

The team announced that they have signed defensive back Corey White to their 90-man roster. They waived/injured wide receiver Brisly Estime in a corresponding move.

White has mainly played corner since entering the league as a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2012. He spent last season with the Bills and had 30 tackles and two interceptions in 15 games with the Jets’ divisional mates. He’s also played with the Cowboys and Cardinals, although his time in Arizona came after Todd Bowles left to become the Jets’ head coach.

The Jets also used four draft picks on defensive backs and signed cornerback Morris Claiborne this offseason while cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Marcus Gilchrist were released.

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Buccaneers sign second-rounder Justin Evans

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The Buccaneers waited a while before signing their draft picks, but they have made quick work of it since getting the ball rolling.

First-round pick O.J. Howard signed his deal on Monday, three more picks agreed to terms on Tuesday and the team announced on Thursday that second-round safety Justin Evans has signed his contract as well. That leaves third-round wide receiver Chris Godwin as the only remaining unsigned pick in Tampa.

Evans started for Texas A&M the last two years and made an impression as a big hitter in the secondary for the Aggies. He also had four interceptions, so could wind up filling different roles for the Bucs depending on who else is on the field with him.

The Bucs also signed J.J. Wilcox as a free agent this offseason and the two newcomers will join Chris Conte and Keith Tandy in the mix for playing time at the back end of the defense.

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Sonny Randle, All-Pro receiver and college coach, dies at 81

Sonny Randle, one of the best players in the history of the Cardinals franchise and later a college head coach, has died at the age of 81.

A high school track star, Randle enrolled at the University of Virginia with little football experience and wasn’t even on the team as a freshman. But he made the team as a walk-on during his sophomore year and eventually became a star, leading the ACC in catches, receiving yards, kickoff return yards and all-purpose yards in 1958.

The Chicago Cardinals took early notice of Randle’s talent and used a 19th-round draft pick on him in 1958, even though he still had a year of college ahead of him. In those days, a team could draft a player who wasn’t done playing college football and own his rights until he finished his college career, and the Cardinals were happy to wait until he could sign a pro contract in 1959.

In 1960 the Cardinals moved to St. Louis and Randle became one of the top players in the league, leading the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns and earning first-team All-Pro recognition. He would have three more Pro Bowl seasons for the Cardinals after that, but injuries began to take their toll, and later in his career he bounced around the league in San Francisco, Dallas and Washington without matching the success he had in St. Louis.

Randle was a natural as a coach, starting while he was still an active player and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team noticed his speed and asked him to give baseball players instructions on sprinting techniques. Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock, who would go on to lead the National League in stolen bases eight times, said Randle helped him become a faster runner.

In retirement Randle became a college football coach and had a great deal of success early on, leading East Carolina to back-to-back Southern Conference championships. That got him hired at his alma mater, Virginia, but he struggled there and was fired after two losing seasons. He eventually got another shot as a head coach, at Marshall, but there were allegations of mistreatment of players, more losing, and he was fired again.

Randle found success later in life as a broadcaster, including working as a color commentator on Marshall games. He worked in broadcasting into his late 70s, retiring in 2014.

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Josh Norman: S–t is going to get really ugly in NFC East this year

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Cornerback Josh Norman is heading into his second season in the NFC East and the league office could be busy if it plays out the way he says it will.

Norman will meet up with old antagonists like Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham and the Redskins corner had some choice words for both of them in an interview with Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report. Norman said Bryant is “just a guy” and that Beckham is “a big kid” who isn’t as tough as he acts.

Those comments are likely to rile the two wideouts and Norman is predicting ugliness when the teams meet on the field later this year.

“Trust me when I tell you, it’s going to be bad blood this year,” Norman said. “You think the NFC East didn’t like each other before? This year right here? There’s going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I’m going to be honest with you: This s–t is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don’t give a f–k and I definitely don’t. And I know they don’t have that many people on the offense who do on their side.”

Norman was more complimentary of Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, but the main thrust of the interview was Norman’s insistence that he won’t be backing down from any fights this year. He said he wants his legacy to be one of a player that went about his business with “violence and ruthlessness,” which should guarantee a continued relationship with the league’s disciplinary office if nothing else.

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Odell Beckham won’t say if he’ll be at any OTAs

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A report that Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham would take part in Thursday’s Organized Team Activity was proven incorrect when the wideout failed to make the trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey for the voluntary workout.

Beckham wasn’t at any of the team’s first set of OTAs this week and he wouldn’t give an answer to Kim Jones of NFL Media when she asked if he’ll be at any of the remaining seven on the team’s calendar.

“I love my team and am excited about the season,” Beckham said before offering a no comment on his plans for the rest of voluntary work.

Beckham is heading into the final year of his rookie contract — the Giants have exercised their option for 2018, which is guaranteed against injury only — and that’s the first time when players are eligible to sign an extension with the team that drafted them.

Beckham hasn’t said anything publicly about his deal and isn’t required to be at any Giants practices until their mandatory minicamp in June. He told Jones he will be there for those workouts, which may also present an opportunity to hear his thoughts about a new contract.

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Richard Sherman calls story of friction in locker room “nonsense”

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is denying a report that he and quarterback Russell Wilson aren’t seeing eye to eye, and that the differences between the two are emblematic of the friction between Seattle’s offense and defense.

Sherman told SiriusXM NFL Radio that the story isn’t true.

“It’s just a bunch of nonsense from ‘anonymous’ sources. Can never put much gravity of things like that,” Sherman said.

While it’s true that much of the detail in the ESPN story comes from anonymous sources, it’s a lot of detail from a lot of sources. It’s hard to believe that all of it is false — especially when it comes on the heels of the Seahawks exploring trading Sherman, something they likely wouldn’t be doing if everything in Seattle were going smoothly.

So while Sherman’s denial isn’t surprising, it also won’t be surprising if in the weeks ahead, more reporting focused on the Seahawks confirms that there really is trouble brewing in Seattle.

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NFL declines comment on federal law that would allow sports wagering

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An effort to end the federal ban on expanded gambling has begun. The NFL, which consistently has fought against the expansion of gambling, has nothing to say about that.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT that the NFL will decline comment on the fledgling effort to end 25 years of federal prohibition against expanded sports betting at the state level. If successful, each and every state would be able to decide on its own whether to embrace sports wagering.

Some believe the league’s decision to let the Raiders move to Las Vegas represents the first step toward an eventual embrace of gambling, along with an effort to find a way to siphon some of the cash that the league traditionally hasn’t been able to directly touch. It’s a long-term play, but it can’t begin until the federal government changes the law.

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Budda Baker signs with Cardinals

AP

The Cardinals opened the day with two unsigned members of their 2017 draft class.

They’ll end it with just first-round pick Haason Reddick in need of a contract. Safety Budda Baker signed his four-year deal with the team on Thursday.

Baker is not taking part in the team’s offseason program right now because NFL rules bar him from practicing until the University of Washington ends the school year on June 9. He did get to travel to Arizona to sign his contract, however.

“It’s definitely been difficult being away from the veteran type of guys,” Baker said, via the team’s website. “I feel like I knew this coming into it, and I’m just trying to stay focused and stay with the task at hand. You can just control what you can control and when I am here, just be ready.”

When Baker is able to fully throw himself into life with the Cardinals, he should compete for a role in a secondary that frequently uses three safeties at the same time.

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Michael Bennett calls ESPN article “trash” and “all gossip”

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As one media boycott by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett ends, another one may be beginning.

In response to a detailed article from Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine regarding the depths of the dysfunction in Seattle, Bennett said via Twitter, “This article is trash and should be on TMZ. It’s all gossip. I’m surprised this came from you.”

Bennett posted another message in response to the notion outlined in the article of resentment toward quarterback Russell Wilson: “I love [Wilson] great teammate and friend and even better human. I was at his house last week and he gave me BBQ ribs.”

Neither Wilson nor Richard Sherman, the primary characters from the Wickersham story, have reacted to the article on Twitter.

Despite Bennett’s protests, Wickersham’s article can’t be described as gossip. He has on-the-record quotes from people like former Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith, and Wickersham’s track record suggests that the facts attributed to unnamed sources or something other than #fakenews.

Wickersham will get a chance to react to the reaction, and to further discuss his story, when he appears on Friday’s PFT Live at 7:35 a.m. ET.

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C.J. Mosley recovering from shoulder surgery

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The Ravens picked up their option on linebacker C.J. Mosley’s contract for the 2018 season, but that wasn’t the only offseason development of note for their 2014 first-round pick.

Coach John Harbaugh revealed on Thursday, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, that Mosley had shoulder surgery. He has been in the building and taking part in meetings during the offseason program with Harbaugh adding that the team doesn’t have any long-term concerns about his status for the 2017 season.

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda is also recovering from shoulder surgery and has been held out of practices along with linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had biceps surgery. Joining them on the sideline Wednesday was tight end Maxx Williams, who ended last year on injured reserve and had a knee surgery that Harbaugh said no other football player has had before.

Williams, like all the others, is expected to be ready to go in time for training camp.

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Effort commences to legalize sports wagering

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The NFL will oppose gambling, until it doesn’t. And it won’t oppose gambling once gambling becomes legal.

The process of legalizing sports wagering has commenced, with the introduction of legislation that would end the federal ban on the expansion of betting. Via ESPN.com, the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME Act) would repeal a 1992 law that the prohibit the further spread of state-sponsored betting.

Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) sponsored the legislation. He contends that the prevalence of illegal gambling compels an effort to legalize and regulate wagering on sporting events.

“Despite the federal gaming laws in place today, Americans are betting up to $400 billion a year on sporting events alone,” Pallone said in a statement. “It’s time to recognize that the laws are outdated, and the GAME Act will modernize them by increasing transparency, integrity, and consumer protections.”

It likely will be couched as an issue of states rights, with each jurisdiction determining whether to legalize sports betting and the federal government exiting the business of telling states what they can and can’t do. Over time, plenty of states would embrace sports betting. After years or decades, possibly all will.

The NFL has in the past fought aggressively in court the efforts of states like Delaware and New Jersey to circumvent the federal law that prohibits states from legalizing sports betting. It will be interesting to see what the NFL has to say about this effort to scuttle the federal ban — and whether and to what extent the league will devote lobbying dollars to help the new law or to block the new law.

Some believe that, despite the league’s public-facing opposition to gambling, the decision to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas means that the NFL eventually will do an about-face as abruptly as it did about Vegas, going in the blink of an eye from loathing it to loving it — and acting as if it never previously had a problem with it.

As the NFL tries to get to $25 billion in annual revenue, and with billions already changing hands illegally every year via betting on the NFL, this ultimately represents a way for the NFL to grabs some of the money on which it has historically missed out. Eventually, the end game will be to create a mechanism by which fans can bet on games through official websites and apps, finally giving the NFL a piece of a pie that it has stubbornly refused to taste.

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